In his popular weekly blog for Angler's Mail, Colin Mitchell asks if you consider what you're going to catch before you head out fishing. It'll help you catch fish!
WHEN you decide to go fishing, do you also consider what fish you are going to catch?
That may sound like a strange question but think about it! Do you just tackle up with what you think is the right end gear, float or leger, and then slip on your favourite bait?
Most of my fishing now is not in matches but whether it is a pleasure or competition day I seriously think about what I am aiming to catch. Obviously you consider what species are in the venue and you wouldn’t be slinging out deadbaits if there were no pike or perch about. If you want to win a match you often decide whether to target a species, use a Plan A, go for small fish in numbers or lesser amounts of bigger specimens.
So why do most pleasure anglers just think of the species around and try to catch them all? I know that is the case…I do it myself quite a lot. But you will often catch a lot more – especially at this time of the year when sport is harder – if you think strongly about the fish you can catch. Note… can, not want!
Recently I fished a small lake with plenty of features that contains most species you would find in English stillwaters. Although it is not a commercial in the true meaning of that word it does hold mostly carp. It was pretty clear that after a cold snap, a glass like surface with no wind and some sun that these fish may not feed. Indeed, after just half an hour I had seen just one small carp caught. I decided this was a day when the silver fish would get a chance. I fancied bream but thought the calm might put them off – and that roach might just get a look in.
I’d have liked a few more clouds or a ‘darker’ day for the roach but the fact other species weren’t having a go really led me to believe the redfins might show for once, beating bigger fish to the bait.
As it was flat calm, it was time for a size 20 rather than the usual 14 you can get away with here. Line went down to a sensible 0.13 hook length and a lighter elastic just incase a bonus was hooked. But the key element was dotting down the pole float tip so that it just showed. It rarely buried but I lifted into any shake or slight dip and the result was some nice roach! In fact I had a lovely bag of fish up to about 12oz and these are roach you normally only catch in ones and twos at this venue.
One of my other favourite lakes, which has a bigger head of carp but still a massive mix of species gave me a similar result but with a different species.
The water looked too still and too calm but it was overcast and was obviously going to remain cold all day. No pike here but there are some lovely perch that don’t always beat the carp and roach to baits like worms and prawns (there’s a no live or deadbait rule).
I fancied prawns would be more selective so I chopped some up in a pole cup and popped them into a nice looking swim under some overhanging branches.
I then fished a lot further out with maggot and landed a few roach but nothing special. After an hour I couldn’t wait any longer and dropped a prawn-baited hook into my prepared swim. The float settled and just kept going down…
Result a 2 lb perch. And by feeding steadily and giving the swim a rest after every fish I managed half a dozen more perch, all over 1 lb. I also had a couple of bonus roach and carp on the prawn! Don’t just think species either. Think long and hard over choice of venue. Your favourite water might not always fish under certain conditions so look for other options.
It’s also worth taking time over bait choice. Maggots will now often work better than pellets but casters can often outscore those live grubs. And you can be more frugal feeding caster. Chopped worm really comes into its own now the weather has turned cold, especially on clear venues. And if there are roach and skimmers about never, ever forget that punched bread.
Inexperienced anglers often back off bread punch-worried it won’t stay on the hook so here’s a little trick that often works. Get a fresh slice of bread, roll it out gently with a rolling pin and then cut it into various sized squares, just small ones, enough to cover hooks from a 20 up to maybe a 16.
This will stay on the hook and still catch fish! Try not to make it too ‘doughy’ and ensure you use a small hook as this wont fluff up like normal bread punch.
It might not be as efficient as normal punch but it does still work.
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